CHAPTER 4 RESULTS
The following chapter introduces the 8 dancers that participated in this study. The participants were selected through purposeful sampling. Each participant was invited to participate and were presented with a participant information sheet. This included information on the research and what would be required of them if they took part. After confirmation of their participation, the initial interviews or observations were arranged according to availability. The participants chose interview and observation locations according to what would best suit their situation and availability. The locations used were predominantly cafe’s but also included a participant’s house, and an office at their work place. Before each interview participants were reminded that any information provided would not be confidential and they each signed ethics forms to confirm their consent to this. The use of journaling during and after the interview and observation process was useful in recording the feelings, actions and tones of each meeting with the participants. It is hoped that this, along with the use of narrative in the presentation of this data will capture these elements which made each meeting unique; as well as provide an insight into the individual character of each participant. In order to preserve the participant’s voice within the text their words are presented as they were spoken; slang and all.
Interviews were conducted using a semi structured frame work. Six topics relating to hip hop dance in New Zealand governed the direction of questions within the interviews, these topics were; background, meaning, issues, practice, philosophies and aims. Questions were open ended and allowed for the experiences and perspectives individual to each participant to be expressed.
The following chapters present the experiences and reflections of the eight participants of this research: Parris Goebel, Justin Haiu, Sophie Evans, Josh Mitikulena, Margaret MacKenzie, Chris Teava, Ennaolla Paea and Joseph Ling. ‘The Royal Family’ is a name they have given to their full suite of crews and members; composing of ‘Bubblegum’ – the kids crew, ‘Sorority’- the teen crew, ‘Misfits’ and ‘ReQuest’ the adult crew’s were inside the studio practising for an upcoming performance for Christmas in the Park. I walked past the small office and lounging area and quietly went into the Royal family’s rehearsal. Other than a few waved and whispered hellos to some of the dancers that I knew I went in virtually unnoticed. Parris was sitting right in front of the mirrors, her eyes focussed on the moving bodies in front of her watching for every detail. Her laptop and sound system was set up next to her so that she may just extend her arm to control the sound. Every now and then she would get up and offer more instruction or join in herself. When the Bubblegum kids started to play around and display their age, which their advanced dancing ability is little indication of, they were taken to the office for a talk with Parris. When they came back they were quiet and focussed. Though the rehearsal was physically intense and each dancer was covered in sweat; the rehearsal atmosphere still managed to possess the feeling of family and camaraderie found in many hip hop dance crews. However there was one aspect of the rehearsal that is considered almost a luxury by many dance crew leaders (including myself). Due to both the respect of dancing under a well known and skilled choreographer and the knowledge of the very changeable and privileged position the dancer’s hold in the company; when Parris talked everyone listened. After the rehearsal the whole team pitched in to tidy up the studio, wipe down mirrors and sweep the floors. When everyone had left and been picked up Parris took me into the small office to commence the interview. With cupcakes on the table, Parris and I pulled up some chairs and began to talk. Parris Goebel is a half Samoan/half New Zealand European choreographer and dancer for Request Dance Crew; which she started in 2006 at the age of fifteen. She also teaches at her studio ‘The Palace’ and trains 4 other dance crews in ‘The Royal Family’ company. At the time of the interview Parris was 20 years old and despite this young age she says: “I feel old. I feel really old. . . . I think because I have a lot of responsibility. So I feel like I’ve grown up really quick”. When asked if she had expected this kind of success she explained that it had never occurred to her that it would get this big, she says: That is actually so trippy to me because when I started Request it was just me and four other girls and literally it was just for fun. I wasn’t like ‘OK we’re going to win worlds and one day we’re going to grow into a group of 8 and then we’re going to start our own studio’. I really didn’t have it planned out like that. It was just for fun. I just wanted to perform and I didn’t want to perform by myself. So I started a crew. Parris began her dance education through watching music videos before she took classes at Let’s Dance studio: When I was really young, the scene was nothing like what it’s like right now. So I would just copy like video clip dances. Like Missy Elliot, Beyonce and Destiny’s child, I’d just copy that. That was kind of like my learning . . . I think I didn’t take my first proper class until I was like 11ish maybe a bit older than that. And that was my first proper class and I just fell in love with it. Parris continued learning dance while she was at college before leaving school to pursue dancing as a career. “End of 5th form [I] dropped out and I went to America to train over there for a bit. Then I got a scholarship over there in an agency. Then I came back and really decided to chase my dream of starting my studio”. When discussing the street dance scene in New Zealand Parris describes that the dominant dance style is new school; “I think we’re very weak here at our old school styles”. And within new school she details that the trends are always changing: I think it used to be blow ups, but then it changed. And I think it went kind of femme for a bit, I think it went very g-funk for a bit. I think this year it’s turned very, how I say it, ‘gangsta 101’ like clean, imitated gangsta. I say imitated because I don’t feel like its raw and I don’t think it’s real. I think it’s just like this is a gangsta set. I think that’s what everyone’s tryna follow now. Parris goes on to discuss that following trends has presented some issues: I think when I look at New Zealand I look at it like a sponge and it just constantly soaks up stuff. And sometimes its good and sometimes it’s bad. It’s good as in its constantly evolving but I think it’s bad as in sometimes it loses its identity, and crews lose their identity by being sponges and following. . . . I think when we see something we copy or when there’s a trend or a phase, we join. She explains what New Zealand dancers soak up to be: I think it’s a mixture I think the influences are choreographers in America, I think people like hunt them down and copy them, especially guy ones. And I think the other thing is worlds, I think they’re always highly influenced by the crews that win worlds . which is sad because for me I think inspiration should come from everything, from a table to a phone to electricity. That’s what your inspiration should come from. Not from watch, watch, watch.² A trait of street dancers in New Zealand that Parris values the most is originality and the ability to be oneself; and names a crew that she thinks possesses those traits: To me movers and shakers are people that are constantly stepping out not necessarily winning, just like for me Hopskotch does that a lot. . . . It’s like it’s about what they do not where they place and I can see that through what [they] do ‘cause [they] actually do some stuff that no one else would do and that’s really cool. That’s a mover and shaker for me, not people who are always like cool and are doing what everyone else is doing. Through the course of the interview Parris raised other issues about the street dance scene, such as the emphasis on competition. She said I think it’s very competition based and I say that [because] I don’t think that besides a competition do you see a crew just perform to perform? No. Just ask how many showcases there are just to showcase. There’s none. So its very competition based. And I think that’s a good thing and a bad thing like I think everything is. I think it’s good because I think competition is the number one thing to help you grow, because it’s giving you structure and it’s giving you time limits so you have no choice but to work hard. But then it’s bad because it gets people into that mentality ‘if I lose, I suck’. Or ‘if I do this then we’re not going to win so we’ll have to do this’. Another issue for Parris is the lack of opportunity for street dancers in New Zealand. “I think a lot of peoples mindsets here is that when you get to a certain stage or adults ‘I just have to stop because there’s nothing else’. So I think creating that opportunity is a really important”. She goes on to say that there is even less opportunity as an individual dancer: “I think the structure of our community here has almost made it impossible to make it as an individual dancer. ‘Cause where do you go? Where do you compete? How do you showcase?” In future Parris hopes to continue pursuing her dreams and wants to enable others to be able to follow in her footsteps: I think my dream is to create a pathway, I guess, for dancers here through the studio that they can see . . . Request’s plan is to move to LA next year in the middle of the year and have a Request based there so that we can do more international stuff and I guess chase the dream and just go for it . . . we’ll keep sending crews every year to worlds, ‘cause I think for me that just keeps giving more and more opportunities to a new group of kids every year . . . And hopefully by having Request based in America, obviously the girls aren’t going to be in it forever so there’s going to be that opportunity in America so that maybe girls here that are getting older can hopefully one day think if they really love it to move over to America and join Request over there. So it’s like showing that pathway. A few months after this interview Parris was asked to be a choreographer for Jennifer Lopez’s world tour and performed with her on the TV Series ‘American Idol’; she is currently living her dreams.When I arrived in Aotea Square in Auckland central it was alive with activity. In one corner was a display of live ‘Pacific Barbie’s on pedestals; in another, members of the public were being chased by giant seagulls; and on the grass patch ‘Occupy Auckland’ protestors were still camping out in tents. I watched as three business men walked into the centre of the square, dressed in suits and talking on their phones. A button on a CD player nearby was pushed and played a soundtrack for these three men. This caused the men to start dropping their phones, fall over each other and engage in almost a flash mob styled performance of physical theatre mixed with the styles of popping, breaking and contemporary dance. Justin Haiu was one of these businessmen. He moved fluidly between the different dance styles and displayed great strength and control. The three businessmen interacted with each other, and the audience, and showed off their individual skills as well as group choreography. At the end of the piece the business men picked up their phones and proceeded on to what appeared to be their daily business. Whilst entertaining and beautiful in its own way, to see hip hop dance practised in this way in New Zealand is surprisingly rare.I caught up with Justin at McCafe in Manukau accompanied by his 20 month old son. Our interview took place next to the children’s playground so that we could talk while Justin could keep his son entertained and keep an eye on him at the same time. I already knew a bit about Justin’s background and how far it reached, so I was excited to see what this interview would unfold. Justin Haiu is 31 years old and was born in Whangerei; he moved to Auckland when he was Justin is of mixed heritage, he explains “my dad’s from Wallis and Futuna Islands and my mum’s from New Plymouth. She’s New Zealand European”. When asked what he does for a living he explains he is “a freelance entertainer” and that it has changed over time: ‘Cause a couple of years ago it was all different. I was doing a variety of stuff. But now this year I’m just dancing for the New Zealand Dance Company and working with Red Leap theatre. At the end of last year we did some street theatre, so I think the stuff that I’m trying to aim towards now is having a theatrical element of storytelling of themes or messages that are positive and will hopefully leave a mark on people for good. Justin started learning dance through school and grew to be inspired by videos: I danced when I was doing Kapa Haka . . . I was doing that in primary, intermediate and college years. . . . And I watched . . . Michael Jackson actually! When he came over here they showed a little bit on TV. And I think I was watching ‘a stranger in Moscow’, and he was doing some robot, and I was like “man I wanna be like that!” So I just started doing that at school with my friends. And then in ’98 I saw Run DMC vs. Jason Nevins . . . and that inspired me big time to wanna dance. He also started taking class with Gandalf Archer; “I took a hip hop dance class at city dance. I think it was Gandalf that taught it. Yeah he was a bit of inspiration that I looked up to as well. He was in the competition scene”. Justin also started breaking in well-known New Zealand bboy crews before joining two of the pioneering hip hop dance crews in New Zealand; Ngaru Puawai and then Jireh. He explained his crew journey: I started hanging out with some ‘Excellians’ some dudes from [Excel School of Performing Arts]. . . . before that I was in some breakdancing crews. Triple C squad was my first crew, later it became Qwik n Ezy, named after the Clendon Community Centre, or Clendon Community Crew. [laughs] . . . And then I jumped into Faith City Rockers. And I think just being in the Christian scene around other Christian dancers I think that’s when I started hanging round with the Excellian dudes. Yeah and I was just asked to be a part of Ngaru Puawai. They tried to go cultural, hip hop, break dancing, just kind of performance in general. We had that element of Kapa Haka and wanting to encourage youth. In 2001 the crew changed to Jireh: We started in 2001 I think it was. We went to Melbourne for a singing competition, we didn’t place anywhere but we were good though; apart from me [laughs]. We were there for a month so we thought that we would just kinda tour around schools, and youth rallies, churches, on the street, malls. Then that’s where we ended up and we just started carrying on. Justin informed me that one of his biggest passions when getting into hip hop dance was bboying: I was addicted to bboying for like 2 years solid. I think probably back then I was like ‘I am bboying, I love bboying!’. ‘I’ll bboy right now!’. I can remember going to sleep and all I could think about was bboying and so I just had to jump up and just started breaking, ‘cause I stayed in the garage [laughs]. And then I was like ‘oh I’m satisfied’ and I could go to sleep [laughs]. He explained that since then the community has gone through some big changes; “there seems to be a lot more crews. It’s bigger. Yeah it’s definitely changed like there was a bboying wave throughout New Zealand; with more bboy comps; more bboy crews; more bboys. But that changed to hip hop dancers, and to street dance, and to competition dancers”. When asked if he still feels part of the street dance community he told me that’s not always the case. He said: I feel a little bit out of the community . . . I think ‘cause I’m always, street dance wise, I’m always doing it solo. So there’s no community, I’m not around the community”. He also explains that this may also be due to a lack of paid work in the art form and that because of this doesn’t always feel like a hip hop dancer. “I feel a bit funny calling myself a hip hop dancer now. Just ‘cause I feel like I’m on the verge of it now. I still love street dance. I mean I’d be doing street dance if there was a street dance company that would pay. But there are only contemporary companies, or contemporary works, that offer paid work. I think that’s actually why I went down the contemporary track was ‘cause they were paying and no one else was. I still love it and I still do it. I still jam inside my house. Hip hop dance gave Justin a pathway into the performing arts world, I asked him if he thought he would be dancing now if he hadn’t pursued street dance. He said: I don’t think so. Yeah it was definitely a big big drive. ‘Cause it actually took quite a few people to say to me ‘you know you’re actually pretty good when you do that’. So I think that I just started believing in myself after hearing some of that. You know like ’oh am I?’ like I’m actually good at something. Yeah I know yeah, ‘cause I didn’t think I was all that at school; academically I wasn’t but physically like in performing arts I excelled and in Kapa Haka and in rugby we won every year. But I didn’t know what to do afterwards. Justin’s aspirations for the New Zealand hip hop scene and for himself are synonymous; “I would like to see it get funding, for there to be a few paying hip hop theatre companies. And I’d like to be in one [laughs]; to tour with it, to put on shows”.
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION
1.1 The Journey
1.2 The Return Journey
1.3 Hip Hop and Me
1.4 Questions and Methods
1.5 Experiences Reflected
1.6 Structure of Thesis
CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE
2.2 Hip Hop and the Young at Heart
2.3 Hip Hop: A History
2.4 Hip Hop Dance or Street Dance
2.5 Hip Hop’s Authentic Dance: Bboying and Bgirling
2.6 The ‘Funk Styles’: Locking and Popping
2.7 House Dance: House, Vogue and Waacking
2.8 Hip Hop Dance and Party Dance
2.9 New School/ Hip hop choreography
2.11 Hip Hop Dance in New Zealand
2.12 Battles, Ciphers, Jams and Competitions
CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.2 Qualitative research
3.5 On the inside: Position of the Researcher and the Researched
3.6 Methods of Data Collection
3.7 Data Analysis
3.8 Trustworthiness and Limitations
CHAPTER 4 RESULTS
4.2 Interview Structure
4.3 Case Studies
CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION
5.2 The Community: Inter and Intra
5.5 Issues of Age and Career
5.6 History and Foundation: Is it important?
5.7 Meanings and Messages
CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSION
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
Hip Hop Dance in New Zealand: Philosophies, Practices and Issues.